Austin Riley circles the bases after his sixth-inning home run Saturday. 
Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Austin Riley ‘back to my roots’ with start at third base

Austin Riley played his natural position of third base for the first time in the major leagues Sunday.

Riley, who had started in left field in each of the previous four games since the Braves promoted him Wednesday  from Triple-A Gwinnett, returned to the infield for the homestand finale against the Brewers at SunTrust Park. Josh Donaldson, the Braves’ regular third baseman, got a day’s rest from the starting lineup.

“Just kind of back to my roots, (to) what I know,” Riley said in the clubhouse before the game. “Excited to get that first start as a major leaguer at third.” 

In his first four major-league games, Riley had been a sensation, collecting eight hits, including two home runs, through Saturday. He became the sixth Braves player in the past 111 years with at least eight hits in his first four career games, the first since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966. The last Brave with an eight-hits-in-four-games start to his career was outfielder Mack Jones with Milwaukee in 1961. 

Riley’s fifth game was less successful. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Sunday against the Brewers. But he still has a .421 batting average (8-for-19) through five big-league games.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said when Riley joined the team Wednesday that he will play third base when Donaldson rests and otherwise will be in left field.

“As long as I’m in the lineup, I don’t care where,” Riley said. “I’m just happy to be here and give J.D. a break (Sunday)  and get his legs back under him before the road trip.”

Before reaching the big leagues, Riley had played only five games in his life in the outfield — one in spring training this year and four for Gwinnett recently.

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